BYU Air Force center stage at the Jazz game

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The BYU Air Force ROTC Rifle Drill Team performed during half-time of the Utah Jazz game in the Energy Solutions Arena on Saturday, Nov. 10.

For the last several years, the drill team has competed at the Southern California Invitational Drill Meet, winning first place for three consecutive years. The team has never received a ranking lower than third place, and only freshmen and sophomores are on the performing team.

Cadet Capt. Matt Lemley, this year’s drill commander in charge of training and motivation, said the team makes a name for itself because the members are so young. The team changes every year to allow other cadets to compete against highly trained upperclassmen from other universities.

The Drill Team marching in southern California

“It is done to provide a better opportunity for the younger cadets to represent the detachment and BYU,” Lemley said. “We compete against the Academies, so it’s definitely an extra pride factor to say our cadets can beat theirs.”

The drill team performed at the Jazz game Saturday night in commemoration of Veteran’s Day on Sunday, Nov. 11. This team was compiled of “veterans” who are upperclassmen at BYU but have performed with the team early on in their career.

Cadet Lt. Col. Daniel Wahlgren is a senior who did drill team his freshman year. He said he was happy to perform again because of his experience as an underclassman. “Drill team is one of the most tight-knit groups in the ROTC program,” Wahlgren said. “Everyone is so close because you spend so much time together.”

This alumni team practiced its drill for just a month and a half. In the military, there are hundreds of signals and “calls.” The cadets only had to know a few for their performance, but training is rigorous. Cadet Drew Mendenhall, a junior member of the team, said his cadets meet every morning at 5:50 a.m., do physical training for one hour and then throw rifles or march for the second hour.

Three other juniors performed Saturday night. Cadets Bryan Reil, Jesse Lanham and Austin Sewell all said performing in celebration of Veteran’s Day was a great honor. Each of them have a family member or friend who has served, or is serving, in the military.

Reil said being a member of the drill team and performing at so many different venues has helped him have more appreciation to others who have served and are serving. The team travels throughout the community to perform, and last week it performed several times on campus and at middle schools in Utah for Patriots’ Week.

One of the most difficult parts about performing is keeping a straight face. Among other suggestions, Sewell said his tactic always works for him. “I always pretend I’m angry,” he said. “You just have to learn to bite your lip really hard.”

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